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Millennium Post

Military & ministry need to work closely

A highly discredited government on its last lap will get blamed for each act of governance gone wrong. The criticism of Defence Minister A K Antony to resolve brewing discontent in the military brass during his roller-coaster tenure will stand test of time. In the past few years we first had the (then) chief of army staff Gen V K Singh entering into a confrontation with the government leading to complete breakdown of trust between the force headquarter and the South Block and now we have the resignation of naval chief Admiral D K Joshi, which is being attributed to lack of communication between the two centres of top command. Both the situations were preventable but Antony somewhere failed as the leader of defence establishment to create atmosphere of bonhomie and mutual trust.

This, however, should not take our focus away from the fact that there was also laxity at the level of operation leading to loss of men and machine and most importantly prestige. The fire in submarine INS Sindhuratna on Wednesday was the tenth accident involving an Indian Navy warship and the third submarine mishap in the last seven months. Around a month ago, INS Sindhughosh had a close shave when it entered the Mumbai harbour during a low-tide phase and was about to run aground. INS Sindhurakshak sank in the Mumbai harbour last year, killing all 18 personnel on board.

Earlier this month, INS Airavat, an amphibious warfare vessel, ran aground after which the commanding officer was stripped of his command duties. After the sinking of the INS Sindhurakshak, one of the mishaps involved INS Betwa which was damaged after probably hitting some underwater object. India’s leading minesweeper, the INS Konkan that was undergoing repairs in Vizag, caught fire and suffered major damage to its interiors. The Pondicherry-class minesweeper was getting a refit at a dry dock when the incident occurred.

These mishaps raise serious questions about the ability of Indian Navy to maintain its fleet though in the defence of Navy it should be said that acquisition of modern ships have becoming so cumbersome that it has left our fleet both old and worn out. It brings bad name to one of the finest Navy across the world.

There are however a few good takeaways from the unfortunate incident. Both the outgoing naval chief and the defence minister have maintained restraint and not washed dirty linen in public. Antony described Joshi as a ‘very good Admiral’ and a ‘fine human being’ and expressed ‘sadness’ at the whole development. However, the force and the ministry have to work more closely to salvage the fast sinking prestige. India cannot afford to let the matter rest at that but the decay has to be arrested.
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